Chapter 25 – The Morning After

When Brittany opened her eyes the next morning, Nick was already awake.

In fact, he was more than just awake. He seemed to already have showered, packed, and was ready to go.

“Morning,” she said awkwardly, rubbing her eyes slightly.

“Morning.”

There was a thick silence in the room for a moment. Brittany didn’t really know what to say to him. She’d been somewhat drunk the night before, running high on alcohol and whatever emotions she’d been dealing with. The frustration of talking to Niall again, the shock of Nick kissing her…

“Nick,” she said looking at him, not really knowing what to say. Because really, what do you say to your best friend who came on to you, and you made out with, but then ultimately shot down?

“Yeah?” He waited for her to continue.

She gave him a look. “About last night,” she began, looking off to the side.

“We don’t need to talk about that,” he shrugged, going back to folding his clothes and putting them in his suitcase.

“We do,” she pressed. Nick’s inability to ever talk about anything serious wasn’t usually a problem, but right now it definitely was. “I just think-”

But Nick turned to her and held up his hand. “There’s nothing to talk about. We both had too much to drink and tricked ourselves into thinking something should happen between us when it shouldn’t. Right?”

Brittany nodded. Yes, she felt that’s exactly what it was. As soon as she’d kissed Nick, she’d known that any feelings she’d had for him were strictly platonic. “Yeah,” she nodded. “You’re right.”

“I’m always right,” he said with a grin, zipping up his suitcase.

She rolled her eyes a little at his cocky remark. Still, she was somewhat surprised by the fact that he’d been able to describe their situation so easily, and maturely. “How’d you get to be so smart about this stuff?”

Nick raised his eyebrow. “I am thirteen years older than you.”

Brittany nodded a little. She always seemed to forget that small fact. She still wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was because she liked to think they met in the middle, maturity wise. But today, their age difference was apparent more than ever.

Brittany looked at the alarm clock on the table. She figured she’d better get moving since they had a plane to catch and all. “I guess I’m going to go back to my room and have a shower and pack and stuff,” she said, getting up to leave.

Before she exited the room, however, she leaned over to Nick and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you,” she said with a small smile.

He didn’t need any explanation as she walked out of the room. He understood perfectly – they were friends and they’d made a mistake, just as he’d told her.

He instinctively rubbed the left side of his chest a little. He still felt a little sad and rejected that it hadn’t worked out in the way he’d wanted – but this was probably better. Their relationship would only become stronger because of it.

***

Brittany wheeled her suitcase down to the front desk to check out of the two hotel rooms. Nick had gone off in search of tea to get him through the long day ahead of them, so she stood waiting for the clerk to finish printing everything up.

She leaned her arms on the cool tile and sighed a little, looking around. All things considered, she was happy she’d come on the trip. It had been weird, but at least it had served to get a lot of things sorted out. Both good and bad.

Speaking of bad, her eyes fell on Niall as he walked through the lobby. Despite her drunken thoughts and feelings surrounding him, having a conversation with him wasn’t her top priority at the moment. She swiftly turned back around, hoping he wouldn’t notice her, but of course he did.

“Hi,” he said, leaning up against the marble.

“Hi,” she said, somewhat irritably. He was the last person she wanted to see right before she left. Though, she had to admit, that even though he’d probably had a late night of partying, he looked good. His fake blonde hair still had the same flip to it that it had had so many years ago.

She shifted a little awkwardly, which was different than the way he’d carried himself the night before. Though she was still annoyed with him, she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’d probably been drunk, and she was in no position to judge anyone for their dumb, drunken decisions.

“You weren’t in your hotel room last night,” he said. It wasn’t really accusatory, but it bothered Brittany all the same.

“No I wasn’t,” she said shortly. “What were you doing up there anyway?”

“I came to apologize for getting upset with you,” he said sincerely.

Inside, she felt overwhelmed by his soft tone and look. Outwardly, she wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of forgiveness so easily. “What?” she asked. “Did Liam help you see the error of your ways?”

“No,” he shrugged. “I came to it on my own.”

She was sure he was lying, because she’d never known him to ever come to any logical conclusion about his thoughts and actions on his own. Someone always had to coerce it out of him. “Right,” she said, taking the papers from the clerk and grabbing the handle of her suitcase. “Well, thanks.”

He looked at her for a moment, and for the first time, she couldn’t really tell what he was thinking. It was like she didn’t know him at all anymore, and the thought saddened her. This whole trip had been oddly nostalgic for a variety of reasons, and this interaction she was having with Niall was the icing on the cake, so to speak.

“It was really nice seeing you again,” he said. “You look really happy with him.”

“I’m not with him,” she said quietly, looking at the ground. Of course now, she was replaying all of those events in her mind once again. She didn’t think she’d ever forget the feeling of Nick’s lips touching hers, and honestly, she really wanted to.

“Well, whatever you are it seems like he’s good for you,” he said. “Where is he anyway?”

Brittany shrugged. “He went to find tea or something.”

Niall just nodded and inched a little closer to her.

Brittany’s felt her heart speed up in her chest a little. For a second, she was worried he was going to kiss her.

But he didn’t. Instead, he went in for a hug, and she accepted, wrapping her arms lightly around him for a couple of seconds. “Have a safe flight home, Britt Britt.”

She smiled at his use of her old nickname. “Thanks, Nialler.”

***

“That’s £2.70.”

Nick fumbled around in his wallet. He hated paying for stuff in Europe – he never quite got the hang of using a different currency, despite the amount of time he’d spent there. He used to always make Kevin pay for him. And it usually worked.

“I’ve got it.”

Nick looked up from his money expedition and raised his eyebrow as Niall paid for his drink. “Thanks,” he said, taking his paper cup off the bar. Nick contemplated taking the lid off and splashing it in Niall’s face, but he decided against it. The kid had just paid for it, after all.

That, and Nick really wanted to drink it.

So he took a sip and eyed Niall. He must have come over there with a reason. Probably to try and make peace. He sort of hated how much this guy was beginning to remind him of his younger self.

“I just wanted to say, you should take good care of her,” he said awkwardly, putting his hands in his pockets.

Nick gave him a look. That was it? He was making it hard for Nick to come up with an excuse to punch him. “Brittany doesn’t need anyone to take care of her,” he said shortly, even though he didn’t feel like that was entirely true. “But I will.”

Niall just nodded. “Right,” he said, looking at the ground and shuffling his feel. “Well, I’ll be off then.”

And Nick just watched him walk away. Back to his hotel room or wherever he was going. He shook his head and took another sip of his drink. That had been weird – he couldn’t understand why Niall would want to make peace with him.

But he shrugged it off, and walked through the hallways of the hotel, eager to get back to the lobby, back to Brittany, and eventually, back to the states.

“Hey,” he said, walking up to her and grabbing the handle of his suitcase that he’d left there.

“Hey,” she smiled. “Did you find your African Rooibos?” she laughed, rolling the ‘R’ in the word as if to mock his exotic taste in tea.

Nick scrunched up his nose a little as he looked at his cup. “No,” he said with slight disappointment. “They had some weird tea latte thing. It’s…weird.”

She shook her head a little, but still smiled up at him. It had been a weird weekend, there was no doubt about that, but she was thankful that through it all, she’d maintained her friendship with Nick. At least now, they’d jumped that awkward emotional hurdle and things could go back to normal. “I’m sure they’ll have it at the Starbucks in LAX.”

“They will,” Nick said seriously.

“Ready to go back?” she asked, beginning to wheel her suitcase towards the front doors.

Nick left out a sigh of relief. He’d never been more ready to leave London in his life. “Hell yes.”

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